08th February 2016 - Simon Friend/Image by Ryan McNamare
I spent 4 years in the Special Boat Service. I was a point man/lead scout, which means I was the first person through the door. I was also a primary fires operator and sniper.
I work throughout Africa in the mining and security sector.
Predominantly in honour of the lads that I served with and that still serve today within the organisation, I wanted to show the viewer/the world just how mentally finely tuned, and how highly trained these guys are just to make it into the Special Forces world, let alone make it once you're in, which only magnifies tenfold!
Even though they live very much in the shadows, I want people to know how unique and special these guys really are. That's why it was so important that the producers let us 100% run the course with minimal interference, so we could keep the authenticity and integrity of the actual selection process. I knew, with the right team, that we could deliver that, which we did.
I remember sitting on my Bergen in the early morning dark on the parade square in the pissing rain, with the land rovers on full beam blinding us and just seeing the outline shadow of the Chief instructor barking out his orders and never knowing when the day was going to end, it was very intimidating. Trying to keep the fear of failing out of my mind was hard work mentally.
The escape and evasion and the resistance to interrogation, for me that was the most challenging part of Selection.
No misgivings at all, everything is done for a reason, we are looking for the best of the best, we're not there to make friends. If you haven’t got what it takes, it's simply 'pack your bags and off you go'. I did not get any perverse enjoyment out of it, I'm simply looking for the characteristics and attributes that are required to make it into the Special Forces world.
At first glance you're looking for discipline, those who have come prepared. As for those who might succeed or not, it's impossible to tell so I can't say that I ever looked at individuals like that from the start!
We did not go easy on them at all, we put them through exactly what we went through, we maintained the immense physical and mental pressure of selection.
The recruits were all physically fit as they had to pass a screening process beforehand, so the overall standard I would say was medium to high.
As Chief Instructor, the wellbeing of the recruits was my priority, along with that of the Production team, the medics and the psychiatrist, this was maintained throughout the course and monitored 24/7.
Precautions as above with the relevant teams and individuals, a key component was the experience of the DS team, every task or test that we gave them, we were there on the ground with them leading by example! So knowing when and how far we could push the recruits to THEIR limits was crucial, and also knowing when to stop, who better to control and judge that than the very people who have been there and done it themselves.
You try not to favour individuals but as the course goes on then you naturally draw to certain individuals. By the end I'd really warmed to a couple of them who I could see that, one day, could have what it takes to serve in the Special Forces.
The qualities required are many, but mainly a combination of physical and mental robustness, self-discipline, controlled aggression and a magnified attention to detail. Those were what I focused on in my Selection course.
The experience didn't make me want to return to the Special Forces world but it did humble me in a way that we could take a bunch of civilians, put them through such a rigorous training programme and see non-military personnel get to the end of it, some finishing strongly.
It was very rewarding and has inspired me to get back into a military training role. It just goes to show that if we focused young people's energy in the right direction then you’ll be surprised by what they can achieve.